BOSTON – Until the United States applies democratic principles to the nation’s health care system, millions of Americans will continue to be denied decent medical attention, one of the nation’s leading civil rights leaders told an enthusiastic crowd at opening ceremonies at the American Psychological Association convention here in August.
“No one should have to make a choice between getting good medical care and providing economic security for his family,” Rev. Jesse Jackson told several thousand people who overflowed the Hynes Convention Center to hear him. He was late arriving in Boston and made a grand onstage appearance unexpectedly while Gospel singers were entertaining the crowd. The audience went wild with tumultuous applause. Later, when he finished his hour-long talk, the crowd again let loose with appreciative cheering following his remarks which played well with the enthusiastic audience.
Richard Suinn, president of APA, orchestrated the show which included a Native American Purification Ceremony and Blessing and a Hawaiian invocation and chants.
“All Americans should have access to health care when they need it, wherever they need it and how ever long they need it.”
But even though he was preaching to the choir, Jackson reminded the crowd that America has failed to make the choice to provide that level of health care. Far from being anywhere near universally available, health care continues to be out of reach for millions of Americans. Jackson had only to point to an event earlier in the day to show how far the nation has to go to achieve health care equality for all Americans.
Explaining that he had buried his 55-year-old brother that very morning, Jackson said the deceased was a victim of “late detection, late admission, an uncaring HMO, an improper diet and no regular medical exams. He never stood a chance,” Cancer is as common as the common cold, he said. Cancer is often left undiagnosed because many poor and uninsured Americans can’t afford to go to a doctor on a regular basis.
Jackson’s address was delivered at a convention that had cancer and ethnic minorities as the central focus.
Putting a plug in for affirmative action and diversity, Jackson reminded his audience that while America looks like a quilt, the patches represent huge cultural and economic differences. “We should look beyond the patchwork and find a common cord that connects us,” he declared. “Inclusion makes us stronger.”
He also reminded the crowd that the nation’s dominant culture represents only 6% of the human race, that half the world’s population is Asian and less than a third of the world speaks English. “Jesus didn’t speak it and the 10 Commandants weren’t written in it,” Jackson said.
Returning to his theme of using democratic principles as the underpinning to improve the nation’s health care system, Jackson said, “all Americans must be included. No one can be left behind. All human life is precious.” With the advent of managed care, Jackson said the current health care system is more interested in keeping the marketplace happy than the health care needs of the people it is supposed to serve. “But the market place is blind. Democracy is not blind; it has a vision,” Jackson said.
He challenged psychologists to use their special skills to make America a less dangerous and hateful nation. “We make more guns than any other world in the nation, and we shoot them. “We make more bombs than any other country, and we drop them,” Jackson said. He added that it was time to stop building first class jails and second-class schools.